Wednesday marks the beginning of the Central California Conference dual meets for Turlock and Pitman high's wrestling teams along with the hopes of another successful season.
Already established as elite programs in the area, both the Pride and Bulldogs know that the consistency of success is far from easy but they are more than confident this upcoming year will provide another positive turnout with the student-athletes on their respective rosters.
Turlock is coming off a CCC title in the tournament finals while Pitman finished fourth. Both squads qualified a total of 27 wrestlers in last year’s Divisional tournament and each returns a few of those athletes.
“Our expectations are to win the league tournament... that is always the expectation,” said Turlock head coach Mike Contreras. “We are going to have to overcome some adversity as well, and try and qualify as many guys as we can since we don't have state qualifiers or state medalists.”
Turlock does return two of Sac-Joaquin Master's qualifiers in Breck Jeffus (220) and Alex Oliveira (152) to lead this year’s team.
Jeffus is also currently ranked third in the section.
“Hopefully we get some qualifiers from those guys,” said Contreras of his two leaders. “Expectations are high and we hope for no injuries and the kids can make grades and all that and we should be fine.”
The Bulldogs will also look to William Giron (106), Adrian Heras (113), Alex Ceja (132) and Emanuel Conde (138) to be some of the top wrestlers for the upcoming season after saying goodbye to six of the eight Master's qualifiers.
“I am still excited, obviously we still have talent and have some depth, the guys we have down in their weight classes or are up but I feel like we have guys who have their goals set high,” Contreras added. “That is what they are shooting for, so we will see how that goes, I am really impressed so far.”
Pitman, which went through some rough patches last season in league play, still had individual standouts as they return their two state competitors in Adam Velasquez (145), who placed fifth, and Isaiah Perez (182).
Pride head coach Adam Vasconcellos also gets the luxury of welcoming back eight returning Master's qualifiers including Perez, Velasquez, Trevor Maddox (132), Joseph La Rosa (160), Brendan Tallent (195) and Julian Barrera (HWY).
“We had some injuries the last couple years and it’s been very close, filling in with some JV guys but we had a good year,” said Vasconcellos of last season. “It’s super early and you never know how grades and injuries pan out, but we have a good group of kids who are hard workers and if we can stay healthy we will be good this year.”
In order to be good, the team will also rely on two incoming freshmen in Izzy Tubera (113) and Kendall La Rosa (138).
“Two very good freshmen at the top of the lineup, I mean they won the Ceres Tournament in their first year at varsity,” said Vasconcellos of his two freshmen. “So we should be tough.”
The focused and determined Pride have already set a goal for the upcoming season.
“Wrestling is a bit different because us as coaches, obviously we want to win all the team tournaments and all that but the wrestlers have their own individual goals,” said Vasconcellos. “They are very focused on their individual goals, I know some want to be state champions and others want to place in state.
“It's a matter of piecing it together and individual as well,” he added. “If individually they take care of their goals, then the team will fall in line so it’s a matter of getting all the kids ready for all situations and if that happens we will be tough to beat this year.”